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LowCost PCR workshop

November 26, 2016 @ 9:00 am - 6:00 pm


The era of personal DNA testing is here, with the diffusion of affordable, personal devices such as BentoLab and MiniPCR. Many DIYbio spaces already offer the possibility of conducting PCR tests.

DIYbio gives citizens the opportunity to question the world around them.
DNA is in every living being, and each organism has its own particular DNA sequence. PCR is extremely sensitive, able to detect even the tiniest amount of the DNA you’re looking for. If the DNA is present, also the organism is present.

Here are some example questions, touching our daily lives, that can be answered by PCR:
Is the mushroom I collected really what I think?
What type of plant/bug/animal is this one?
Can I trust the ingredient list on this food packaging?
Is this food really GMO-free?
Does this sushi really contain yellow-fin thuna?
Is this mosquito carrying the Zika virus?
Can I smell asparagus-urine?
Which dog is pooing in my garden?
Do I carry a predisposition for a certain disease?
From which nations were my ancestors from?



The workshop is divided in two major parts: electronics and biology.

In the first part we will build a PCR machine and an electrophoresis chamber for the Makerspace. The machine is technically very simple: it uses some basic electronics components, it is controlled by an Arduino and uses Python for programming the reaction parameters. The case and some components will be made using the laser-cutter and a 3D printer at the Makerspace.

In the second part of the workshop, we’ll describe the PCR principles and we’ll run an actual reaction. In particular, we’ll identify the type of animals used in meat products (beef, pork, goat or horse) and you can bring your own sample to test (2 mg are more than sufficient).

The DIY machine opens avenues for conceptual implementation of biohacking projects at the Makerspace. We’ll follow up with a discussion on the ethical implications of DNA analysis done by citizen scientists. After the workshop, the Biotop Heidelberg e.V. will take care of the proper functioning of the machine and organize PCR sessions.



The workshop is open to beginners and experienced bio-intrepids alike. No previous knowledge in electronics or biology is needed, as all the relevant notions will be covered during the workshop.

We would appreciate a small donation (10-20€) to cover the material costs for the machine.
To allow everyone to have hands-on experience on the project, we set the maximum amount of participants to 15.



Cand. MSc. (Biotechnology) Philipp Bayer and MSc. (Physics) Michael Blessenohl will lead you through the biology and electronics part of the workshop, respectively. They developed the PCR machine together with their collegues at the Heidelberg Life Science Lab and have already brought their workshop in Weimar and Berlin.



If you want to take part to the workshop, register by filling the form here and click submit.
You will then recieve additional information and updates about the workshop. Registration will help us to have an idea on how many people will join.

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November 26, 2016
9:00 am - 6:00 pm
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DAI Makerspace
Sofienstraße 12
Heidelberg, 69115 Germany